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How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Whether getting a cavity filled at the dentist’s office or getting serious surgery, medical procedures can be stressful. A nasty mixture of vulnerability and possible pain can be a hard pill to swallow. If you learn how to become a certified registered nurse of anesthesia (CRNA), you could help people emerge from their medical procedures without it ever feeling like they had one.

Do you see yourself as someone who loves to help people through the miracle of medicine? Consider a career with lucrative benefits and a ton of freedom by becoming a certified registered nurse of anesthesia.

What Is a CRNA?

A certified registered nurse of anesthesia (CRNA) is a registered nurse specializing in the administration of anesthesia to patients.

Graduates of CRNA programs have gone through it all. CRNAs usually earn a bachelor of science and a doctoral degree in school. Afterward, they earn credentials from the National Board of Certification after years of experience.

With a rich history stretching back into the 1800s, anesthetics administration has been a critical aspect of effective pain management. Anesthesia rose in prominence after its first experimental use in 1846 by two dentists in Massachusetts.

This paved the way for medical advancements, and it also opened up many opportunities for motivated individuals to help people others.

What Does a CRNA Do?

While dealing mainly with pain management, CRNAs enjoy more freedom than other nurses. They also have many responsibilities aside from making sure medical procedures run smoothly.

Administers Anesthesia

A CRNA, first and foremost, is an expert in administering anesthesia. This puts the patient to sleep to make daunting surgeries 100 percent pain-free.

CRNAs don’t just appear out of thin air when anesthesia is required. They involve themselves in nearly every stage of the surgery or procedure. They need to meet with the patient, learn how they respond to anesthetics, and consult with them after the end of the medical procedure.

Help Out in a Variety of Settings

Pain management is a core tenet of a CRNA’s specialty. You can find a CRNA in nearly all medical settings. They are crucial in military hospitals, clinics, and more. They have been a staple of wartime hospitals, helping soldiers recover from grievous wounds. Many rural areas rely on the expertise of CRNAs over anesthesiologists.

Monitors Patients

Certified registered nurses of anesthesia work to make sure anesthesia care is top-notch. They ensure patients are comfortable and give the right dose to avoid adverse bodily reactions to anesthesia.

Essential CRNA Skills

Keen Knowledge of Anesthetics

CRNAs should know everything there is to know about anesthesia care and the effects of chemicals on the human body. These individuals are nurses above all else. They’ve worked their way up through nursing programs and long nights in ICUs and operating rooms.

Observation Skills

Administering anesthesia and dealing with pain management isn’t merely done by pumping meds into someone’s bloodstream. CRNAs need to do their research on their patients. Does the patient show any adverse allergic reactions to anesthesia? If so, what is the next best course of action in pain management? They also need to note aspects unique to certain patients: heart rate, breathing patterns, skin color, and blood pressure.

A Command of Proper Medical Equipment Use and Procedures

Certified registered nurses of anesthesia are top experts in nursing. They need to know how best to complete procedures. Intubating patients can be a risky practice. Nurses need to be able to insert and take out a breathing tube without harming a patient. An anesthetist may also administer drugs to a patient via other means if an IV in the arm isn’t viable. This means possibly inserting anesthetic through the spine or other places that require the utmost care.

CRNA Salaries and Job Outlook

Being a certified registered nurse of anesthesia stands out as one of the highest-paying nurse positions in the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that certified registered nurse anesthetists earn a median wage of $181,040 per year, or $87.04 per hour. Experienced CRNAs can earn well over $200,000. This impressive salary is well-deserved, as CRNAs need to have a strong command of every part of their job.

Another alluring prospect to becoming a CRNA is the job outlook. Estimates point to a staggering job increase for certified registered nurse anesthetists. The field will grow by 31 percent over the next few years. This is an extremely significant development and shows more growth than nearly every other related occupation.

How Long Does it Take to Become a CRNA?

Becoming one of the highest-paid nurses understandably takes a while. Clinical experience, advanced practice nursing knowledge, and going through certification and recertification of licenses are just a few required steps.

After earning a bachelor of science, nurses must complete various courses sanctioned by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. An aspiring certified registered nurse anesthetist also needs a minimum of one year of experience in critical care.

Becoming a CRNA requires you to complete doctoral programs. Master’s degrees were once the standard requirement for becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist. Doctoral degrees are now standard operating procedure on the moderately long journey to becoming a CRNA.

Overall, it will take you around seven to eight years to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

How to Become a CRNA: A Step by Step Guide

It takes a while to become a CRNA, but what are the steps to be an expert in pain management and anesthesia care?

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse

This is where your nursing journey begins. To build the foundation required to be a CRNA, you need to have a bachelor’s degree and become a registered nurse. There are a lot of bachelor’s degrees to help you become a registered nurse. There are also opportunities for those who are already registered nurses. You can participate in RN to BSN programs.

Step 2: Get Your Master’s Degree

This is where you will learn the tricks of the trade. You will need to get a master’s degree to become a full-blown CRNA. We recommend getting certified via the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. This organization accredits universities and programs with their seal of approval. They sponsor master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.

Step 3: Get Experience and Get Certified

At this point, a future CRNA will have gone through a few years of intensive experience in clinical environments and ICUs. You then need to pass a challenging exam from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). You will need to recertify your license every few years, so becoming a CRNA is always a journey filled with learning and professionalism.

Step 4: Start Your Certified Registered Nursing Anesthetist Career

Time to put your nursing knowledge to the test. While you won’t earn $200,000 right off the bat, you can work your way up quickly by showing determination, passion, and dedication.

Should You Become a CRNA?

Unequivocally, yes. If you are a registered nurse considering advancing your career, becoming a certified registered nurse of anesthesia is a fantastic option. An impressive salary and unbelievably positive job outlook for the next few years can be motivation enough to pursue this career.

If you have the desire to help patients, make sure they are as comfortable as possible, and want more freedom than many other healthcare professionals, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist is perfect for you.


Is CRNA a stressful job?
While the benefits of becoming a CRNA are many, there is a large amount of stress. A CRNA has a lot of medical responsibilities. The knowledge requirements, along with long hours in a hospital or other medical environment, can cause considerable stress. However, this reflects fairly in a higher salary.
Are CRNAs in high demand?
CRNAs are some of the most sought after nurses in healthcare. Healthcare is a field filled with a need for dedicated professionals, but CRNAs enjoy exceptionally high demand.
What skills do I need to become a CRNA?
Along with good medical knowledge, you need to have excellent math skills to perform advanced calculations with machinery. You also need good bedside manner, as you will be dealing with vulnerable patients.
What is more difficult, medical school or becoming a CRNA?
While becoming a certified registered nurse of anesthesia is by no means easy, medical school for doctors is probably more complicated. The actual CRNA program requires only two to three years, where the medical school program is at least seven years of intensive study.
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